Scholastic: Reinforcing Harmful Gender Roles for Profit

I loved Scholastic book fairs as a child. The monthly catalogue full of crappy books you just HAD to have [and the chance to buy great books at discounted prices]. I still have lots of the books I bought via Scholastic: the complete Judy Blumes and Beverly Cleary books; The Chronicles of Narnia; Lord of the Rings; Laura Ingalls Wilder; Roald Dahl;  and Jean Little. We have many Junie B. Jones and irritating books about unicorns collected by the teenager. The Book Fairs were always the highlight of Parent-Teacher interviews. And, yeah, as a child I didn’t quite get that they were merely a capitalist enterprise exploiting a captive audience and that our schools sold us out in an attempt to deal with their chronic underfunding. As they do.
Scholastic always did gender its products: pink butterfly erasers for girls and football keyrings for boys. But, this gendering, whilst all kinds of stupid, is nothing like the extreme gendering Scholastic is pushing now in their How to Survive Anything Books. I genuinely can not believe a company with the reputation Scholastic has for its educational materials is so desperate to sell books that they’ve come up with this as an acceptable way to market to kids:
Boys Only: How to Survive Anything! Table of Contents:
  1. How to Survive a shark attack
  2. How to Survive in a Forest
  3. How to Survive Frostbite
  4. How to Survive a Plane Crash
  5. How to Survive in the Desert
  6. How to Survive a Polar Bear Attack
  7. How to Survive a Flash Flood
  8. How to Survive a Broken Leg
  9. How to Survive an Earthquake
  10. How to Survive a Forest Fire
  11. How to Survive in a Whiteout
  12. How to Survive a Zombie Invasion
  13. How to Survive a Snakebite
  14. How to Survive if Your Parachute Fails
  15. How to Survive a Croc Attack
  16. How to Survive a Lightning Strike
  17. How to Survive a T-Rex
  18. How to Survive Whitewater Rapids
  19. How to Survive a Sinking Ship
  20. How to Survive a Vampire Attack
  21. How to Survive an Avalanche
  22. How to Survive a Tornado
  23. How to Survive Quicksand
  24. How to Survive a Fall
  25. How to Survive a Swarm of Bees
  26. How to Survive in Space
Girls Only: How to Survive Anything! Table of Contents:
  1. How to survive a BFF Fight
  2. How to Survive Soccer Tryouts
  3. How to Survive a Breakout
  4. How to Show You’re Sorry
  5. How to Have the Best Sleepover Ever
  6. How to Take the Perfect School Photo
  7. How to Survive Brothers
  8. Scary Survival Dos and Don’ts
  9. How to Handle Becoming Rich
  10. How to Keep Stuff Secret
  11. How to Survive Tests
  12. How to Survive Shyness
  13. How to Handle Sudden Stardom
  14. More Stardom Survival Tips
  15. How to Survive a Camping Trip
  16. How to Survive a Fashion Disaster
  17. How to Teach Your Cat to Sit
  18. How to Turn a No Into a Yes
  19. Top Tips for Speechmaking
  20. How to Survive Embarrassment
  21. How to Be a Mind Reader
  22. How to Survive a Crush
  23. Seaside Survival
  24. How to Soothe Sunburn
  25. How to Pick Perfect Sunglasses
  26. Surviving a Zombie Attack
  27. How to Spot a Frenemy
  28. Brilliant Boredom Busters
  29. How to Survive Truth or Dare
  30. How to Beat Bullies
  31. How to be an Amazing Babysitter

The ONLY thing these lists have in common is “How to survive a Zombie” attack. Now, I’ve not bothered to check out anything past the table of contents but I’m guessing the advice isn’t the same.

I can not state how much I loathe this essentialist gender bullshit. I really can’t. It’s not like there is no one with a vagina wandering about Northern Canada who might get attacked by a polar bear and boys are equally likely to suffer sunburn as girls. FFS, girls are being taught how to survive a “crush” and its pretty fucking obvious that this book isn’t aimed at teenage girls. It’s aimed at children and its telling girls that they have to have “crushes” and “be in love” in order to be a “real” girl. And, frankly, the “How to be an Amazing Babysitter” bit is just unbearable tedious and reinforces the belief that the one true desire of girls is to be a mother otherwise they just aren’t girls. The real answer to “How to Play Truth or Dare” is to NOT play it. Someone always gets hurt because its an invitation to bullying [which is hilarious considering surviving bullying follows on the list].

Really, the girls list is an how to guide on surviving being a teenager in a capitalist-patriarchy whilst the boys list is a guide to having fun. How utterly despicable is it that we are already conditioning girls into being Handmaidens whilst allowing boys the freedom to be as creative and imaginative as they want. What better way to spend a long summer day than climbing trees and pretending to be a guerilla army destroying zombies? Or being an astronaut in space? Or living in the jungle and fighting crocodiles and snakes?

And, what about the boys who don’t like hanging about in trees? Are they not “real” boys? Hyper-masculinity and the Patriarchy damages boys too. It creates a construction of masculinity which requires boys to be physically aggressive and never take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Shame on Scholastic for selling our children out and reinforcing the Patriarchy’s policy of cultural femicide.

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